Thailand’s business landscape is vast and full of potential. Steadily growing in size by the year, Thailand’s businesses are waiting with open arms to welcome new business opportunities and potential clients or partners, however doing business in Thailand might be a bit different to doing business in western business culture. The standard business meeting will not be enough to convince your future business partners of your intentions, and you might become frustrated at what seems like a long or drawn out series of meetings, or a frustratingly busy schedule for those you are trying to meet with. Fear not, these are common things in Thai business culture, and we have compiled a list of 4 tips and tricks for finding your footing in Thailand’s business landscape.
Know the Business Culture
Thailand’s business culture is your first hurdle in the race to a smoothly operating and prosperous business opportunity in Thailand. When setting up meetings and organising transport in Thailand, it’s important to keep in mind that traffic is wildly unpredictable, and in Thailand whole streets can be blocked off for the passage of a VIP, or accidents can cause huge delays. If stuck in one of these on the way to a meeting, it is good business etiquette to call ahead and let the person you are meeting with know about your situation. As a result of this, and that business meetings can often go longer than expected, many businesses will not book corporate meetings for more than one or two timeslots in a day. This can make organising a meeting tiresome, and you may need to wait several days before getting to meet with someone, however the flip side is that this restrictive booking schedule allows meetings to run as long as they need to run, and also means that running late in traffic jams of legendary proportions won’t severely impact the meeting itself.
Don’t Insult Your Clients/Partners
This goes without saying in many cultures, business or otherwise, but insulting your client/partner either directly or indirectly is a bad idea. In western culture it is sometimes appropriate as a joke, and only when you’ve known your business partner for a long time, to throw around jokes now and again, however in Thailand that is best left alone until you know a person very well, and even then, never in a business setting. Directly disrespecting someone in front of their peers, in jest or otherwise, can end business relationships and destroy personal friendships. Another thing to avoid is insulting the King of Thailand. In Thailand, there is a law in place that prohibits defamy or threatening the King of Thailand, and while that may sound like a relatively minor offence, many Thai people will take personal offence to jokes or insults made about the King, and if they choose to press charges against you, you can face between three and fifteen years in a Thai prison as a consequence of your actions. It’s better to play it safe and not joke about the King or the country itself.
Find Someone Who Can Help
These business culture rules and other social interaction cues can seem overwhelming and confusing. Thai people in business are people too, and joking around in a good way will still promote laughing and merriment, but you might be feeling somewhat apprehensive about letting loose with the jokes with the thought of long-term imprisonment in the back of your mind. The way around this fear is to find someone familiar with the culture of Thailand who you can bring with you to meetings to act as a kind of “Social Translator”, to guide you through the social aspects of Thai business culture. This way, you can make a good impression without worrying about knowing where to stop, and it also allows you to learn as you go along, which is highly respected in a business sense. A foreigner learning from a local about the business practices and cultures shows a respect for the country that other potential business partners may not show, and can put you in good personal stead with your future business partners.
Present Yourself Well
Lastly, presentation plays a large part in how you are viewed in a business sense in Thailand. Dark suits are to be worn to important business occasions, and a nice office building to conduct meetings in can be the deal maker if your company’s reliability is in question. Renting a floor of a building in thailand for a few meetings can seem a bit extreme, and for multinational corporations with large amounts of money to throw at guaranteeing business deals, these rental costs are little more than an annoyance, however for many mid-sized businesses a virtual office is a safer bet. These allow you to have an office set up in a prestigious location with reception staff and meeting rooms fitted out without needing to rent them. You pay per month, and the office is available to answer your calls and provide you with rooms to conduct meetings in, just like a long-term office.
Thailand’s business culture is complex, but greatly rewarding when you’ve gotten the hang of it’s ins and outs, however a little help never goes astray, whether that’s bringing a local business man on board to help with the cultural aspects of Thailand, or visiting www.servcorp.co.th/en/serviced-offices/ to set up a virtual office for your upcoming meetings.